The Monster Energy X-raid team crew of Stéphane Peterhansel and Jean-Paul Cottret claimed their first stage victory of the 2011 Dakar Rally on the fifth special stage in the Atacama desert between Calama and Iquique on the Pacific coast, in the north of Chile, on Thursday.
The French duo were involved in a frantic tussle with Qatar’s Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah throughout the 423km desert special and Peterhansel’s victory reduced Carlos Sainz’s grip on the overall race lead to 2m 26s. The stage success marked a unique double for the BMW manufacturer, with Peterhansel’s win in the BMW X3 CC coming on the back of a superb stage win for Portugal’s
Paulo Goncalves in the motorcycle category on his BMW G 450 RR. To make the day doubly sweet, Peterhansel regained second place in the general classification.
“It was not an easy stage at all for the first one in the desert,” said Peterhansel. “There were many broken tracks, sand, fesh-fesh and tricky navigation. We managed to overtake Nasser and Carlos at the same time near the start when they made a mistake.
“Then we made a mistake, we were in the dust of Carlos, I had a puncture and we touched a rock. Then I pushed again towards the end and caught both cars just before the dunes. We have seen now that three drivers are quicker than the others.
My car is perfect, but it will not be easy to be first on the road on the next stage. Sometimes it can be good. We will see.”
The Monster Energy-backed Mini All4 Racing crew of Guerlain Chicherit and Michel Périn had been in excellent form through the early kilometres of the day’s stage and were running as high as a virtual third position before they left the road and were forced to wait for Ricardo Leal Dos Santos to tow them back on to the track. The French duo lost over 30 minutes and eventually finished the special in 10th place and now hold 11th in the general classification.
On Friday (7 January) teams tackle a 456km special stage between Iquique and Arica in the northernmost extremities of Chile.
This is the last Chilean town before the border with Peru and the route includes numerous sand dunes and thick, choking dust or fesh-fesh (known as guadal in South America).
Positions on stage 5 (unofficial @16.25hrs):
1. Stéphane Peterhansel (F)/Jean-Paul Cottret (F) BMW X3 CC 4h 33m 19s
2. Nasser Saleh Al-Attiyah (QA)/Timo Gottschalk (D) Volkswagen Race Touareg 4h 34m 43s
3. Carlos Sainz (E)/Lucas Cruz Senra (E) Volkswagen Race Touareg 4h 36m 34s
4. Giniel de Villiers (ZA)/Dirk von Zitzewitz (D) Volkswagen Race Touareg 4h 38m 40s